William O'Connor Morris.

The French revolution and first empire : an historical sketch online

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called liberators — especially the robbery of works of
art, which were sent as spoils to the museums of Paris
— had caused more than one angry rising. After the
complete triumph of 1796 the opinion of the masses
became more evident ; and though the old aristocracy
of Venice remained bitterly hostile to the French ideas,
the Modenese, the subjects of the Pope, and the great
body of the people of Lombardy, had risen against
foreign or hated rulers, and attached themselves to the
victorious Republic. Bonaparte, wielding
poHcy'of^'^ already enormous power, ably turned the
Ws^and^^ ' movement to his own advantage, and to that
revolution- of the Directory in a secondary degree ; he

ary views. , . - . ^ . . - ,

obtamed considerable territories from the
Pope, as the price of sparing Rome and the adjoining
Provinces ; and while he levied ample contributions
from them, he gave or promised the Italians "liberty"
within the districts he had annexed or occupied. He
steadily carried out, however, this policy of compromise,
and of moderating Revolution ; and, while he treated the
Italian States and their Sovereigns with a view rather to
his own objects, or to immediate political interests, than
with the least regard to Republican notions, it was ob-
served that he had no sympathy with what he contemp-
tuously called the multitude, and that he thoroughly

despised its hopes and passions. Mean-
on Vienna whilc, his army, largely recruited from all
rom ta y. parts of France, had grown truly formida'

1796. The Directory. Bonaparte. 155

ble ; and he took the field again in the spring of 1797.
Austria had no forces sufficient to oppose his march ;
and though the Archduke Charles made a gallant
resistance, Bonaparte swept over the Italian Alps and
hastened down their German slopes towards Vienna.
An armistice was signed on April 7, within sight of the
domes of the Austrian capital ; and Bonaparte, having
with a force comparatively small conquered from the
Var almost to the Danube, and broken the strength of
the Austrian Monarchy, dictated in a few months the
terms of peace. By this treaty, known as Treaty of
that of Campo Formio, Austria ceded Bel- S^^°
gium to the French Republic, and, as head October 17,
of the Empire, agreed to the cession of the
German Provinces on the French bank of the Rhine ;
and she consented that Lombardy and several adjoining
States should be formed into a Cisalpine Republic, of
course a mere dependency of its French original. In
return for these immense losses, Bocaparte flung her
Venice as a spoil, notwithstanding a protest from the
Directory ; and his conduct in this was very
characteristic. The Venetian oligarchy had France^
certainly been a thorn in his side while he
was on the Adige ; and after he had disappeared beyond
the German Alps it had stirred up an insurrection in his
rear. But, long before the peace of Campo Formio was
made, the Republic had become a democracy appa-
rently subservient to French authority ; and,
nevertheless, Bonaparte deliberately sacri- Venice!^ °
ficed a people and a State, once an ally of
France, in order, as he avowed, to sow dissensions
among the late Coalition, which, with the exception of
the Power aggrandized, resented the transfer of Venice
to Austria. The act was not so ineffably base as it has

156 The Directory. Bonaparte, CH. viii.

been described by historical censors ; but it was very
significant of a policy of craft, of expediency, and of
hard self-interest, opposed to all the revolutionary pro-

In this manner a youth of twenty-seven

Reflections on •' . . "^

the conduct of had strucK down the only remaining enemy'
Bonaparte. feared by the Republic on the Continent,
had consolidated and widely increased its conquests,
and had shed a glory on the arms of France more splen-
did than she had ever known. The right of France to
what the national sentiment had recognized as her natu-
ral limits had been admitted by her great German rival :
her influence extended, beyond, from the Adige to the
Texel ; and a dream which Richelieu would have dis-
missed as idle had been realized in perfect completeness.
A burst of enthusiasm went up from the

Enthusiasm in 1 -i i -111

France at his popular heart to hail the warrior who had
successes. done thesc great deeds ; and the name of

Bonaparte, scarcely known before, was in every mouth
in France as a word of marvel. Hardly less astonish-
ment was felt in Europe, too, at the extraordinary
achievements of the young conqueror ; and the feeling
was largely mingled with genuine admira-

Admiration . _,, ,. , . ... .a

felt for him in tion. The diplomatists of Piedmont, Aus-
Europe. ^j.-^^ ^^^ Rome, had recognized in Bona-

parte a kind of sympathy with the established Powers
and old order of Europe, surprising in a negotiator of a
Revolutionary State ; and several of them had said that
no other General of the devouring Repubhc would have
been so moderate. Bonaparte had also treated his de-
feated opponents with delicate and becoming courtesy ;
and he had displayed to soldiers and statesmen whom
he wished to please the charm of a manner which pos-
sessed an inscrutable and mysterious fascination. He

1797* The Directory. Bonaparte. 157

was thus d« object of the respect and flattery of even the
most resolute enemies of France ; and he was regarded
by the enfranchised Italians as a deliverer all the more
to be loved because one of their own race and blood.

Surrounded thus by a halo of glory, Bona- He returns to
parte left Italy to return to France, and received with^
after passing hastily through Rastadt, where acclamation.
the States of the Empire were negotiating a peace that
seemed inevitable after Campo Formio, he quietly re-
turned to the modest house in Paris which he had quitted
a comparatively unknown soldier. He was greeted with
an enthusiasm such as never had been seen since the
days of Louis XIV., though, either from inclination or a
studied pohcy, he avoided the public gaze, and seemed
to court solitude. The capital shone in an December,
array of splendor which contrasted strangely ^797-
with the horrors of a few years before ; and the conque-
ror of Areola and Rivoli was the only object in the eyes
of the multitudes who crowded to celebrate his great
exploits in festivals in which the antique pomp of the
Roman Commonwealth curiously blended with the glitter
and luxury of a modern age. How long would the
obscure Heads of a divided, feeble, and revolutionary
government withstand the influence of the young hero,
who seemed to carry fortune at the point of his sword ;
how long could the Republic co-exist with this glorious
personification of the military power, which already
encompassed it on every side ?

158 Egypt and the \Zth Brufnaire. CH. ix.



„ ^. The homage rendered to Bonaparte, and

The Directory , ,\ , , , • j

jealous of Bo- the great influence he already enjoyed, gave
naparte. umbrage to the Republican government.

The causes of dissension were already numerous, for
the haughty independence of the young General, his
contempt of all military schemes but his own, his sacri-
fice of Venice, and the sovereign attitude he had as-
sumed in the negotiations with foreign Powers, and,
above all, his supremacy over his troops, had been
viewed with alarm and suspicion ; and when, after his
return to France, he was welcomed as the image of her
glories, his ascendency irritated the eclipsed Directory.
Nor did the subsequent conduct of Bonaparte tend to
reassure the weak chiefs of the State, who dreaded an
authority they did not themselves possess. Though he
continued to live in extreme simplicity, and seemed to
prefer the society of men of letters and science to poh-
tical affairs, he had let fall expressions which revealed a
dislike of a feeble and disunited government, and the
junta in office instinctively felt that his presence was a
rebuke and menace to them, though jealousy was masked
under a show of deference. Either from a desire to get
rid of a foe, or possibly from a higher motive, the
Directory soon tried to engage Bonaparte in an enter-
prise which, if of tempting promise, was one of extraordi-
nary difficulty and peril. England, after Campo Formio,

1798. Egypt and the i8th Brumaire. 159

was the only great Power that remained at ^^^^ ^^^^^^
war with the victorious Republic; and the himtoauempt

, r ■^ , ^ descent on

Directory, exasperated at a recent tailure to England,
negotiate with a British envoy, invited Bo-
naparte to make a descent on our coasts, a project for
which Hoche — that remarkable man had just diedj
amidst general regret — had always had a strong predi-
lection. An expedition of this kind, however, had been
unsuccessful in 1796, and the battles of Camperdown
and of St. Vincent had annihilated the fleets of the Ba-
tavian Republic and of Spain, now an ally of France ;
and Bonaparte declared the scheme premature, and
suggested another which he thought more hopeful. His
mind, imaginative and calculating alike to a degree of
force which has been seldom witnessed, had even in
Italy turned to the East and the ancient centres of his-
toric power ; and he proposed to invade and ^^^^^^^^^^ ^^
occupy Egypt — that stage on the way from invade Egypt.
Europe to Asia which has always attracted the
thoughts of ambition. The Directory joyfully sanctioned a
plan which would certainly remove a dreaded rival, and, if
successful, would make France predominant in the Medi-
terranean Sea ; and Bonaparte was given ample means
to carry out the intended design. His preparations were
made with a secrecy and skill which showed a high fa-
culty for organization ; convoys were collected in the
Itahan ports, and troops directed upon the sea-coast, so
as to conceal the project as long as possible, and in
May, 1798, the expedition set sail from Toulon. It con-
sisted of a powerful fleet and army ; and its Expedition to
leader perhaps entertained hopes of imita- ^gyp'-
ting the career of Alexander, and, after subduing and
colonizing Egypt, of marching from the Nile to the

i6o jEgypt and the i8th Brumaire. ch. ix.

While this enterprise was being set on
E-Sdf °^ foot, the Congress of Rastadt had been
sitting, and negotiations were going on for
peace on the Continent. Prussia, which since the treaty
of 1795 had almost become an ally of France, had se-
cretly rejoiced at the defeats of Austria, and saw in the
present confusion of Europe the means of extending her
power in Germany, fell in with the policy of the Repub-
lic ; and, in consideration of benefits to herself, assented
to French annexations on the Rhine, to the humiliation
of lesser German States, and to the annihilation of Im-
perial Bishoprics, a favorite object of the Directory.
This selfish and unpatriotic state-craft — a main cause
of that habit of aggi-ession and of intervention in the
affairs of Germany which Prussian writers have laid to
the charge of France for their own ends — was opposed
by many of the German princes ; but, as Austria had
retired from the contest, and the divided Empire was left
without a head, a renewal of the war appeared impossi-
ble. This would have been the case in or-
^use7of°^ dinary times; but ancient privilege and
discord in democratic ideas were in a state of ang-rv

Europe. ,. . . , .

collision in the countries approached by the
French revolution ; and though hostilities had not broken
out, the prospects of peace did not brighten. Causes of
fresh troubles quickly arose when Europe was in this
disturbed condition, 'and they were aggravated by the
republican ardor and arrogant pretensions of the Direc-
tory, though the real impulse lay much

Formation ■' ° . ^ , "^

oftheLigu- deeper. Before Bonaparte had left Italy,
v^ianj and Genoa had formed herself into a Ligurian
"^ blicr ^^' Republic ; and not long afterwards a demo-
cratic rising occurred in several of the Swiss
cantons, and after a sanguinary civil war an Helvetian

179^- -Egypt and the i8th Brumaire. i6i

Republic had been established by French influence and
French bayonets. This was followed by a violent out-
break in Holland, which for a time completely over-
whelmed the party of the House of Orange, and of the
old order of things ; and before long the French invaded
the territories of the Pope, set up a Roman Republic in
his States, and filled Piedmont with revolutionary agents,
against the conditions of recent treaties. The march of
the Revolution hastened, accordingly, in a state of nomi-
nal peace as well as in war ; and the French govern-
ment encouraged its progress by their fanatical zeal and
reckless want of scruple. It is not surprising, therefore,
when France had lost for a time her most dreaded com-
mander, that several of the European Powers should
have begun to watch events, and prepare for war ; that
the negotiations should have proceeded slowly ; and
that even Austria should have thought of arming once
more, more especially as the genius and the gold of Mr.
Pitt had been engaged in endeavoring to cement again
the Coalition which had been recently dissolved.
The Continent was in this unquiet state Bonaparte

T- ^ J ^ J • J J .1. • ^^"^^^ in Egypt,

when an unexpected event decided the is- Juiyi, 1798.
sue to which affairs had been slowly tending. Bona-
parte had reached in safety the shores of Egypt, the
French fleet, though with immense convoys, having
eluded the watch of the English cruisers, and having
even had time to seize and occupy the great Mediterra-
nean fortress of Malta. His army had landed, and,
crossing the verge of the Desert, had routed the Mame-
luke horsemen in a battle fought within „ , ^ ,

• 1 r ^ ^ -1 , •, , 1 Battle of the

Sight of the Pyramids ; and he had triumph- Nile, Aug. i,

antly made his way to Cairo, where he had stmction of'

endeavored to establish a French colony, fl^^t^'^^'^*^
But in the meantime his fleet had been com-

1 62 Egypt and the i8th Brumaire. ch. ix.

pletely destroyed by the great English sailor whose ma-
noeuvres at sea bore a certain resemblance to his
own on land ; and he seemed cut off with his army
from France, and imprisoned within his precarious con-
quest. The victory of Nelson determined the Powers
which hitherto had been afraid to strike, and new names
were added to the list of the enemies of the hated Re-
public. Hostilities were proclaimed in the

Renewal of ^ . ,. r. i • i • i

the war in wmter of 1 798, and It soon became evident
Europe. ^^^ ^^ contest would rage from the Zuyder

Zee to the Straits of Messina, and would spread over
part of the Turkish Empire. The Porte undertook to
attack Bonaparte ; the Court of Naples set an army on
foot to invade the newly-created Roman Republic ; Aus-
tria prepared for a fresh struggle on the Rhine and the
Adige, aided by a large reinforcement from Russia,
which had only threatened in 1793. Except Prussia,
Germany generally concurred ; and England gladly
threw her sword into the balance. The Directory, elated
by late successes, met the challenge of its foes with de-
fiance, and looked forward confidently to a new series
of triumphs. An unhappy incident which

Murder of the , , , ^ , ^^/ , . , .

French pleni- had lately occurred, and which threw a
Rastadt"ApHl dark Stain on the House of Austria — the
28, 1799- murder of the plenipotentiaries of France

at Rastadt — had given the Heads of the Repubhc the
strength arising from widespread national indignation ;
and, as they had, so to speak, organized the levee en
masse of a few years before, by the celebrated measure
called the " Conscription," which at this

The Conscrip- . '^ .

tion. moment is the foundation of the enormous

armies that cover Europe, they prepared for hostilities
on the greatest scale.

The campaign which followed is of little interest as

1799- Egypt and the i8th Brumaire 163

an illustration of the art of war. On both ^,

. , , . , ^ (. . . ^ Character of

Sides the antiquated system 01 timid opera- the campaign
tions along an immense front, and of pausing ° '^^^'
at obstacles, was, in the main, adopted ; and Switzerland
became the chief scene of the strife, in deference to the
wholly unsound theory that the possession of a moun-
tain range ensures a decisive advantage to a belligerent,
apart from any other consideration. Though
generally ill-led, the alhed armies had for prenS °^ '^*'
months a great superiority over the French ;
and they certainly might have invaded France, and not
improbably have occupied Paris, had they been directed
with real energy and skill. In the South, indeed, the
Neapolitan levies were routed with ease upon the Tiber;
and under the impulse of the success of ^

. Formation of

their foes, Naples was changed into the the Panheno-
Parthenopsean Republic, and the King oi ^*^" ^^" ^^
Sardinia was expelled from Piedmont. But on the
points where the contest was most important, fortune was
long adverse to the French armies ; and they lost the
fruits of the glorious struggle of 1796, though ultimately
saved from the extreme of peril. Jourdan was defeated
with heavy loss at Stochach, between the

A I 1 1 T 1 r ^ Battle of

Swabian Alps and the Lake of Constance ; Stochach,
and had not the Archduke Charles been ^^^ '^' ^^^^'
compelled, by the military or Aulic Council at Vienna,
to waste his strength among the hills of Uri, he might
have crossed the Rhine, invaded Alsace, and tiirned the
whole line of the French in Switzerland. Meanwhile
the Austrians, feebly resisted, had forced the great bar-
rier of the Adige, and before long the warriors of Mantua
and Rivoli were driven from the Mincio across the Adda,
pursued by the enemies they had so often beaten, and
by a Russian army under Suwarrow, a celebrated vete-

164 Egypt and the 1 8th Brumaire. ch. ix,

ran of the reign of Catherine. Moreau, who had been
for some time in disgrace, for supposed complicity with
the crime of Pichegru, which had come to hght after the
1 8th Fructidor, was now raised to command in Italy,
and endeavored to effect his junction with
Trebbiaand Macdonald, coming up from the South
Sjlnd^igtand across the Apennines; but though Suwar-
August 15,1799- row showed no skill, the two French gene-
rals were completely beaten along the historic banks of
the Trebbia. This was followed by another defeat at
Novi; and though the populations of the
driven from new Republics remained true to the French
^'^^' cause, the allied armies overran the Penin-

sula, and Italy was lost more quickly than it had been
won, with the exception of Genoa and a few other for-
tresses. The war might have been easily carried into
France had the allies now acted with real vigor ; but a
fatal error caused a sudden change of fortune. A com-
bined English and Russian force, under the
English de- too Celebrated Duke of York, had made a
sc.ut on Hoi- ^jescent on the coasts of Holland ; and the*
Archduke Charles was directed, on the
Lower Rhine, to co-operate with this remote detach-
ment. This movement, made against the will of the
Austrian chief, weakened the force opposed to the
French in Switzerland ; and Massena, the ablest lieute-
nant of Bonaparte, and trained in the lessons of 1796,
Battle of Zu- seized the favorable opportunity presented

ber^^s^-X""" ^° ^^^- ^^ ^^^^ °^ ^^^ Russian Korsakoff
^799- in his front, and crushed him in a great

battle at Zurich ; and Suwarrow lost three-fourths of his
army in a fruitless attempt to support his colleague.
This reverse as usual, caused dissensions to break out
in the camp of the allies, and these were only increased

1799- £gypt and the i8th Briimaire. 16

by the inglorious failure of the Duke of York in his
advance into Holland, which the Archduke's diversion
could not really aid. Offensive operations ^

■^ . ^ It saves

were given up, and the territory of France France from

1 • ,1 1 ii • r .1 invasion.

remained intact ; though the armies of the

coalition, with Italy in their grasp, had their outposts on

the borders of Provence.

Meanwhile, torn by intestine factions, the Lamentable

r T- 1 J 1. IT- internal state

government of France had been declining oftheRepub-
rapidly ; and the state of the Republic had ^^'^•
become lamentable. The coup d'6tat of the i8th Fruc-
tidor had given a triumph to the extreme republicans ;
and the expiring remains of the Jacobins lifted their
heads again in a threatening m.anner. The Directory
and the Councils, becoming alarmed, turned <^xx\i% of
violently against the enemies they feared ; factions.
and several "patriots" of a Jacobin type having been
returned at the election of 1798, the reckless course was
again taken of declaring the seats of these deputies
vacant, as had been done in the case of the opposite
party. The Constitution was thus set at naught twice ;
and though the conduct of the ruling powers was less to
blame than at first sight appears, the Republic became
more feeble than ever, and degenerated into a divided
oligarchy, discredited, unpopular, and merely upheld by
the military force on which it rested. The renewal of
the war in 1798 gave extreme offence to the wealthy
classes, and roused once more anti-republican hopes,
though the fate of the envoys at Rastadt had, we have
seen, provoked a storm of indignation ; and measures
on which the Directory unwisely ventured — a renewal
of the forced tax on the rich, and a declaration which
practically swept away the greater part of the remaining
Debt — caused widespread irritation and alarm. At


1 66 Egypt and the i8th Brumaire. ch. ix.

The reverses of ^^'=> crisis the revcrses of 1799 came to exas-
1799 cause all perate passioii and discontent, led to fresh

parties to com- . . , .

bine against exhibitions of weak oppression, and precip-
irec ory. -^^^^^^ ^^ decline of the imperilled State. All
parties combined against the Directory, with character-
istic national vehemence, in the panic caused by defeat
and fear ; and two of the Directors were thrown out as a
sacrifice, though the change could produce no good con-
sequence. Meanwhile, the beaten chiefs of the armies,
who for some time had chafed a good deal against a
despised civilian rule, exhaled their grievances in angry
complaints ; and popular leaders, appearing once more,
clamored for the energy of 1793, and compelled the
„, , J government to have recourse to laws of an

Weakness and

ruin of the extreme kind against priests and emigres,
and to arbitrary military and financial expe-
riments. At the same time, at the news of the success
of the allies, La Vendee showed symptoms of rising ;
the sources of revenue quickly dried up ; the armies
driven upon the frontier, from the fertile tracts on which
they had lived, were reduced to a state of extreme want ;
and between dread of a counter-revolution, and of a
revival of the Reign of Terror, the thoughts of all the
moderate part of the nation turned eagerly to what had
long been their wish — a strong government that would
defend France, and save the interests produced by the
^ . Revolution. In the shipwreck which me-

Desire for a • ^ • -r-. it

strong Govern- naced the sinkmg Republic, the ommous

words "we must have a chief" dropped

Si6yfes. from Sieyes,^ the most far-sighted of the gov-

♦ The Abbe Sieyes was bom in- 1748, and in 1784 was made
Vicar-General of the diocese of Chartres. He devoted himself to
political speculation, and having written a pamphlet on the state

1799- Egypt and the i8th Brttmaire. 167

erning Five ; and in the Legislature, the armies and the
great body of the people, a sentiment which had been
growing up that a complete change of system was
needed acquired at once irresistible force.
While this was the state of France and ^

Fortunes of

Europe, Bonaparte, undismayed by dangers Bonaparte
around, had been carrying on his daring ^^ ^^"^"
enterprise in the corner of Africa where he seemed im-
prisoned. Having, in some measure, pacified Egypt by
a policy of mingled craft and rigor, he advanced into
Syria across the isthmus, not impossibly — such was the
wide sweep of that dazzling yet capacious intellect —
with an ulterior design of reaching Persia and descend-
ing on India by the Euphrates. He was, however, baf-
fled by English energy in an attempt to secure a hold
on the coast ; and having, to his bitter disappointment,
raised the siege of Acre, he was forced to

1 • T- TT 1 He fails at

retrace his steps to Egypt. He was before Acre, March

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Online LibraryWilliam O'Connor MorrisThe French revolution and first empire : an historical sketch → online text (page 14 of 26)